Monday, August 26, 2013

Eyes Peeled for Pork Pluggs

My Grandfather, the great Professor McFinn amassed a great collection of lures (among other artifacts) and one of the rarest examples he collected was a Japanese knock-off of the legendary Maynard's Pork Plugg. Now, the original Pork Plugg can still be found here and there but in the late 40's a few "bootlegs" appeared on the scene for a brief period (no pun intended: actually the Plugg is wearing boxers in my opinion!) originating from somewhere in Occupied Japan. You see, back then the stuff that came from Japan was mostly junk. This was before the transistor and all of that technology that the Japanese would develop like madmen while rebuilding their country and economy after the Second World War had taken it's toll. Stuff that was labeled "Made in Japan" was usually laughed at and tossed into the trash-heap. So, the Pork Pluggs that came out of Japan during period ended up at the dump for the most part. This is why the little boogers are so rare! You can spot one right off, the eyes have faded to a dull yellow and more than likely the ears and tail have fallen off or snapped.

Another reason for the rarity of these things was the way lure companies in those days treated their designs. They were Top Secret and guarded like national secrets. So, when the GoodLuck Lure Mfg. company got wind of the rip-off lures, they were P.O'ed in a big way. Agents from the company were sent to Japan and in a few days "Poof!" the bootleggers had disappeared into never-neverland. I shudder to think what happened to those guys.The fact is, Maynard's Pork Plugg was one of GoodLuck's top lures and it also had a special place in the heart of the company. You see, it was named after a good friend of the company: Maynard Jernigan.

The story goes like this: "In the early days of the Goodluck Bait Mfg. Company in Opelika Alabama, Maynard's Big Pig Barbeque stand was the favorite lunch place among the workers. Its owner, Maynard Jernigan was a local character who loved to fish and liked to suggest ideas for lures to the craftsmen (mostly bad ones). In honor of their favorite restaurateur, the folks at Goodluck created the Pork Plugg. A shallow diving lure with a plastic hula skirt and articulated ears, the Pork Plugg was an effective lure for its time. The back end of the lure was inspired by Maynard's ever-visible underwear and the eyes were said to resemble Maynard's after a long day on the lake."

So, I guess the moral of this story is "Don't mess with GoodLuck" and also "Keep your eyes peeled for a Japanese Pork Plugg...find one and you'll be rich!"

Happy Fishing!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The End of an Era

One of life's mysteries has been revealed today, leaving the land of legend to beasts such as Sasquatch, The Jersey Devil and The Abominable Snowman. It's very exciting and a little sad as well if you ask me. You see, I'm intimately connected to this legend. The story goes like this:

"In 1927 in an area of the South China Sea known as the “Santiago Hole”, researchers in a diving bell were struck by something large and aggressive at a depth of approximately 110 fathoms. When the bell was raised to the surface, the ships crew stared in wonder at the oddly shaped dent left in the crafts hull. And so, the legend of the Fathom Lurker was born. By the mid-1930s Professor McFinn had collected various accounts and descriptions of this deep-sea demon from a number of Pilipino pearl divers and used these to create this portrait, now considered the closest representation of the creature."

So, for years we've "sort of" known he was out there. I mean, how many drunken pearl divers do you take seriously? I remember hanging out in a bar in Olongapo one sweltering summer listening to the pearl divers tell stories of giant clams, monstrous squid and, from one particularly strange dude, a giant, pink scuba diving bear. We were hitting the San Miguels pretty hard and the stories were great but you had to take them with a grain of sea salt. That's why I've often wondered how accurate the description of the Pickle-Tongued Fathom Lurker was, how well did my grandfather research it?

Pretty damned well, apparently.

Last week, the deep-sea craft, "Dave" was scouring the bottom of the Santiago Hole in search of shipwrecks and whatever else they could find (and sell). The owner of Dave, Bob Saville is an acquaintance of mine who, in addition to being a greedy son of a bitch also has a good, healthy curiosity when it comes to critters of the sea. He'd heard the story of the Pickle-Tongued Fathom Lurker (of course) and he'd also heard rumors that it was often spotted ( those drunken pearl divers again) with a scallop in it's mouth. So Bob had created a sort of a scallop sandwich for the trip and he hoped to try to lure the lurker in.

As you can see in this photo, it worked.

Unfortunately, this is the only photo that Bob got. Apparently Fathom Lurkers aren't to keen on bright lights when the flash went off, the monster disappeared immediately. What happened next, Bob described to me as "Sitting in a steel Piñata at a Mexican baseball bat factory". The lurker attacked with such a vengeance that they had to yank Bob to the surface faster than you can say "I just pooped on the poopdeck" and as they raised the thing out of the water, the crew saw that old Dave's surface was dented like a damned golf ball!

Anyway, he got the photo and I guess that's good enough. I hope he finds himself some sunken Spanish doubloons soon so he can get some Bondo and patch Dave up. In the meantime, I'm glad to see that the old man was right once again. Bravo, Pops!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Swamp Spook

We were down by the great Salahatchee Swamp in Southern Florida a couple years back, hanging with a guide named Skidmark Pete who we'd hired to take us deep into the swamp to help us locate a legendary gator down in those parts. We'd heard of him at many a bar in the Southern Florida region. They called him "Big Pierre" because he was the size of a damned Volkswagen Minibus and had an affinity for Frenchmen (the two confirmed kills attributed to him were a couple of French tourists but I'd bet he ain't that picky). Of course I had my tackle box with me and was hoping to land some Bass on the way. I believe I was using a Pork Plugg (God Bless You, Maynard...wherever you are) and as it turned out, the fish in the Salahatchee Swamp go absolutely nutso for that lure. 

We'd started out at about 9am which was a little late for me but Petrus had "gotten into some white" (that's moonshine, boys) the night before and I could have stuck a cherry bomb in his butt and he'd have still been sleeping at 8. That "fro" of his was all cockeyed and he was chumming the fish all morning. Maybe that helped. Anyway, I was nailing the bass left and right.

It was a banner day and I guess I got carried away because it was getting into the afternoon when old Skidmark told me I'd have to put my rod away if we were going to get serious about finding Pierre. The day had turned a little foggy and the heat sat on us like a damp blanket as we got down to business, winding our way through the maze of cypress and general swampweed.

I remember thinking "This Skidmark fella must have an internal compass lodged in his grape." as he navigated the place like the aisles of a supermarket. Boy was I wrong.

Turns out, Skidmark had been "into a bit of the white" the night before as well and, waking up feeling much like Petrus did, he got BACK into some first thing in the morning. I thought he was running some high-test in his outboard but the fumes I was smelling were his breath. Skidmark was drunk as a swamp-skunk and we were lost.

Now, a swamp is a funny thing in the pitch-black of night. Downright creepy actually. Especially if you know there's a gator out there who could eat you, your catch, your cooler...your boat. I was a little worried. Well, moving forward was useless. We'd just end up deeper and deeper into the swamp, so we found ourselves a little cove, dropped anchor and tried to catch some sleep on the deck. The night was buzzing with a million mosquitoes and the whine of cicadas created a drone that seemed to mute the terror of it all and I guess I dozed off.

At 3am, things changed. A fiendish cackle burst out of the night just beside the boat and jerked us all out of our sleep in an instant. I remember opening my eyes and being disoriented...I was staring up at the night sky through the cypress branches and wondering where the hell I was when that cackle erupted again and sent an ice cube straight into my right ventricle.

It was otherworldly. Sitting up, I bumped my head against the seat and was wincing when I looked over the starboard and was met by a bluish glow surrounding bright yellow eyes. White teeth flashed out as the thing lunged at the boat, cackling and cackling like a damned critter straight from the bowels of hell. Thinking fast, I reached into my cooler and grabbed one of the bass I had stowed on ice and tossed it to the shore. The thing wheeled and tried to catch it but, missing it, followed it to shore where it began to devour it. This allowed me a chance to get a better look at whatever it was. Damned if it wasn't a raccoon! Not your everyday 'coon but more scraggly and larger. It glowed an eerie blue and as it turned to look back at us, it's yellow eyes made me say "What the..??!!". It waded into the water, glaring at us, it's mind obviously made up that it wanted the rest of my catch. Petrus' camera clicked away as the engine roared to life. Skidmark was hitting the road, directions be damned!

We wandered through the swamp as the sun rose. Never did get a look at Big Pierre. By the time we'd found our way out, it was hot as hell and twice as bright. As Skidmark stepped off the boat onto his rusty-ass pier, I could see where he got his nickname.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Last week I received a e-mail from Pedro De Pacas, a guy who runs a charter-boat operation down off the coast of Brazil. He told me a chilling account of an encounter he had with the rare and terrifying Psychofish while taking out a group of off-duty cops to land some tarpon. He sounded pretty shook up about the whole deal, apparently it was a hell of a day. Here’s Pedro’s account: 

Olá Senhor McFinn,

I am writing to you in regards to your great knowledge of the creatures of the sea. You see, I had a remarkable thing happen on my Charter-Boat the other day. Perhaps you can help me.

We were off the coast of Salinópolis with about 8 police officers ready for a break from a rough week dealing with some gang activity in the slums. It was a beautiful day, a day my ancestors would call “Bueanafunaticalita” or “Mar belo e bom de pesca”, blue skies and calm seas. We were outfitted for tarpon and reports had stated large schools in the area so, we were ready for some great fishing and we were not disappointed. The tarpon began hitting almost as soon as we dropped our lines in.

Now, these policemen were real cara durão or what you Americans call “tough guys” and they were pulling the fish in with relish while smoking charutos gordos and drinking cold cervejas . Many of the guys would smack the huge fish in the face as they pulled them out of the beautiful blue water and exclaiming “Quem está difícil agora?” which roughly translates to “who’s tough now??”. I guess they were taking their frustrations out on the tarpon and letting off some steam or “desabafar”. It was pretty funny but also a little unsettling as they were getting more and more aggressive.

Around 11 am things got hairy and the “merda bater no ventilador”. As one of the cops was pulling in a beautiful tarpon, the water suddenly exploded with whitewater, blood and chunks of tarpon flying all over the place. There was a flash of bright color and the guys line snapped. Just then, another guy’s line went stiff as he landed a tarpon and the same thing happened. Like an explosion in the water and the fish was gone. Needless to say we were all on that side of the boat now trying to get a look at what was happening, you could see a streak of color now and then just under the water and catch glimpses of chaos below. Some “monstro marinho” was tearing into the schools of tarpon below and bubbles and blood were rising from the depths as its jaws ripped through the fish. Again it flashed near the surface and the boat erupted in gunfire! The cops all had their handguns out and were firing like mad, screaming “Tome isso, bastardo!” and “Maldito seja! Demônio da sea!” It was nuts! Bullets flew past my head and the water was transformed into a fine mist. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The officers erupted in laughter and there, on the surface of the water lay the Demon Fish. Remarkably, one of the shots had nailed it right between the eyes and it was “Mortinho da silva” or Dead as a Doornail. I fished it in and took this photo. Please Mr. McFinn, if you can help to identify this as an actual Spiny, Speckled Psychofish I would be greatly honored.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Banging Away at the Bucks

A few years ago, I went out to Wisconsin to visit an old high school pal, Gig Winters. Not too swift on the uptake in school, Gig was one of these guys who managed to tie a sheet to his butt and somehow found himself sailing through life without a care. He'd gotten a job as a garbage man straight after he was kicked out of the 11th grade for blowing up toilets with cherry bombs and over the years, the crazy guy managed to inherit the business and make a mint. He spent a HELL of a lot of money in sporting goods stores and spent all of his time screwing around fishing and hunting and drinking beer...lots of it. So, I was a little hesitant when he invited me out for one of his excursions into the hinterlands. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of getting half of my head blown off by my drunken millionaire garbage man dropout pal, but...I said yes. Gig was at the very least a fun guy to be around and I needed a break.

Gig told me on the phone that he had something I needed to see that I wouldn't believe and, you know me, that's the one thing you need to say to me to get me to jump. I was on a plane in 3 hours and in Wisconsin in 5.

We set off in his truck, loaded with about 8 shotguns, some high-powered rifles and about 2 million rounds of ammunition. Gig's buddy Mick was going along for the ride as well. Mick was a bout 5 foot tall, skinny as a rail with coke-bottle glasses on and he smelled a little like Wild Turkey, bacon and cigars. I don't think the guy could see a foot in front of his face even without the half a bottle of Turkey he'd poured down his gullet that morning. Apparently this was Gig's yearly gift to Mick. Once a year, Gig explained as he weaved down the country road we were on, he took Mick out to hunt the very animal that was put on this earth expressly for guys like Mick (read: drunken, blind guys): The Target Speckled Whitetail. You see, this poor sap of an animal was born with actual targets all over it's coat. The damned things have all but gone stark-raving mad, running through the woods like a bunch of maniacs, constantly watching their backs for some trigger happy hunters like they had a "Shoot Me!" sign pasted to their butts. Mick was going to score him one of these if it was the last thing he was going to do.

Well, we made our way north to Lake Hunksahumpkin, stopping every 20 minutes so the drunken fools could empty their bladders and pour another beer down their throats. eventually arriving in one piece (amazing) at Gig's secret campsite. Now, you must be thinking I'm a hell of a fool to be hanging out with these two maniacs but I figured that I better stick around if only to stop these two fools from shooting each other. We set out along the shores, heading for a shallow area where the deer were often found hanging out, looking nervously here and there between sips of lake water. I was a few minutes ahead of Gig and Mick, hoping to get a glimpse of the critters before they got blown to Kingdom-come and sure enough, there they were. It was amazing! There were 6 of them in the shallows, their markings bright in the sun just begging for a bullet. I got my camera out and was setting up a shot when Blind and Drunk, the dynamic duo, stumbled out of the woods burping and giggling. Well, let me tell you, those deer took of running for dear life like a flock of birds and the whole damned world opened up with the Thunder of God as a hail of bullets flew over my head like it was Omaha Beach on D-Day! I hadn't noticed that Gig had given Mick a fully automatic assault rifle with a huge clip and the little guy was opening up a can of hellfire on the lake, his thick glasses shaking on his head as the gun rocked him back against a tree until the clip finally ran out and he crumpled to the ground with that gun smoking like Winston Churchill in a smoking jacket.

The deer were now deep into the woods on the other shore, running for their lives. Unscratched. I guess it happened this way every year, Mick had never bagged a deer in all the years Gig had taken them out and apparently, the ritual now included a laugh-filled trip back to camp and the consumption of many more beverages before a long night's sleep.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ship's Dog Shep

What is a ship without a dog? Not much, in my opinion. My grandfather had a fantastic dog named Gigi who was famous for her ability to spot fish deep below the surface. That dog could hold her breath for a good five minutes as she chased after those fish, she was tenacious. Oh, she wouldn't just leap into the water on a whim, my grandfather would never have put up with that. No, ol' Gigi would quietly sit beside my grandfather and gaze down at those fish as he was casting his line, still as a statue, the picture of patience. After all, you don't want your dog jumping in the drink just as that fish you've been chasing is about to finally go for the bait. Nope, Gigi would wait for the magical words "Git it!" from Pop, then she'd be after that fish faster than you could spit!

I'm proud to say I've got a similar mutt aboard the Frankie Anne III: Shep. 

Now, Shep is as good a fishing and hunting dog as Gigi was...he just doesn't quite have the finesse that Gigi had. He lacks a little class I guess you'd say. Where Gigi would sit still as a statue, Shep tends to quake a little, shivering with excitement, barely keeping down the urge to get after whatever needs to be got. We were in South Dakota a couple years ago in the Valley of a Thousand Pheasants (beautiful spot) and I thought I'd tease old Shep a bit. We blindfolded the poor guy and led him out into the grass and told him to "Stay!". Then we whipped off the poor guy's blindfold. There poor Shep sat, surrounded by those pheasants, about to bust. He was staring right at me, waiting for me to let him at 'em. Petrus got a pretty good shot of it. When I spoke the words, there was only nine hundred and ninety-nine pheasants in that valley left.

As far as fishing goes, Shep is a "Hit 'em Hard" type of guy. He'll wait for my command just fine but as soon as he get's the go-ahead, he's after them like a bull in a china shop. He never misses though, not once.

You gotta love a ship's dog. Here's to Shep!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hangin' with the Moosies

So, a couple years ago we were in the great North Woods of Minnesota looking for a strange critter called the Red-Bearded Spotted Moose. They're getting pretty rare. This isn't surprising because they're not a species greatly adapted to the presence of Man. Here's how the story goes:

"In the woods of Northern Minnesota roams a most unusual beast. A giant in both size and intellect is the Red-Bearded Spotted Moose, the scholar of the forest. Nothing gets past the Spotted Moose’s keen eye for inspection; its thirst for knowledge of its surroundings seems unquenchable. This has been, unfortunately, the downfall of the great beast. When the Red Beard spots something of interest, no matter how small, the giant is entirely captivated and may stand still for hours as it contemplates the thing. This has made it easy prey for hunters over the years who will often walk directly up to the animal and shoot it, point-blank." 

You can see why these gentle giants are getting scarce. Some butt-headed hunter's with a chip on their shoulder simply walk up to them and "pop a cap" in them. Tough guys. Sheesh. Well, we set out for the woods with plenty of fishing gear and other essentials. Powell, of course brought his sketchbook , plenty of gear and his wise-ass sense of humor. Runt carried most of the gear, we gave him jerky now and then, that kept him plenty happy. It wasn't long before we were rewarded. Just up the trail from the parking area near a well-loved fishing spot we stumbled upon our first Red-Beard, standing among a group of fishermen working in pretty tight quarters, oblivious to the whole thing. It stood there staring at a beetle or something that had landed on it's schnozola.

The fishermen seemed like it was nothing. They were too busy complaining about how crowded the fishing spot was "And now, we got this danged Moose fella here that we gotta work around, you know?" said one guy I asked "They're always gettin in the way. It's bad enough we got all these other yahoos up here, eh?" he continued in his thick Minnesotan accent. We got a good photo but Powell wanted something a little more private in which to work. There was too much complaining going on here, so we set off. 

We made camp about two miles in and Powell and I set out to the surrounding woods.It wasn't a bad day, we were in shirtsleeves and vests; a nice day for a hike. Powell had stashed a couple of beers in his vest and we'd left Runt behind at the campsite with a jar of peanut butter (he's crazy for the stuff) so we were basically strolling through the woods trading stories of other adventures we'd been on, telling jokes when we rounded the corner and found this armature Lepidopterist, intent on identifying whatever species of butterfly had lit onto his sniffer. He had no idea we were there!

Well, we settled down, cracked a beer and told some more stories as Powell sketched away. Not a bad way to make a living, if you ask me. Afterwards it was back to camp where Runt had cleaned out everything that wasn't in cans. He still hasn't figured out how to open those.

Happy Travels!....And hey, if you ever come across one of these amazing monsters out there while you're hunting, go pick on someone with your own dumb intellect, butt-head!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Legend of the Little Bully

Little Scotty Multer, a crewmember on a B29 Super Fortress during World War 2 was a guy who liked to kid around. He was always pulling pranks on the other members of the crew, pretending that the bomb-bay doors were jammed followed by a cherry bomb..that sort of stuff.

He wasn't well liked among his fellow crew members at first but along with his shenanigans Multer also proved to be a problem solver. He was always coming up with a new gadget to help make some task less tedious or something of that nature. So, in time, the crew warmed up top the sawed-off silly s.o.b. and they began to hang out together. Multer was an avid fisherman and never failed to find a moment to cast a line during liberty. He wasn't the best fisherman but he was enthusiastic, never catching much but never giving up. It would drive him crazy how the damned fish were so wily, always just out of reach, He used to say, "These damned fish are like the damned Japs! You go after one and another one pops up in his place!" He could be an angry little man.

As the war continued and he flew more missions, Multer was beginning to feel his luck wearing out. He was haunted by the thought of being shot down and the runs to Tokyo were hair-raising and dangerous missions to say the least. You can imagine the relief when the war came to a screeching halt after the United States pulled out the Atom Bomb. The Little Boy and the Fat Man were dropped and the missions were ended. Multer went home to his fiancé, Bridget and began raising his family. He had no idea that the events in Nagasaki and Hiroshima would not only have saved his life but would also make him a very rich man as well.

You see, avid gadget-maker that he was, Multer used the example of the Atom Bomb to make himself a lure to fight those wily fish that he'd been after for so long. He got himself some lead and some hooks and fashioned the now infamous "Little Bully" into a lure that would change the face of fishing in postwar America. No longer did a fisherman need skill and technique to snag a trophy bass or trout, he could use brute force! If you had a strong enough pole, you could launch one of these babies into a serene lake and you'd be sure to either hook a fish or knock one out. The brightly painted grenades were flying like tree-rats above lakes the country over and Multer had a foothold in the lure business.

The returning veterans were having a ball bombing the bass and downing beer. Life was good in America again. Eventually, though.. the lures became less popular among aficionados of the angling persuasion and the brute force that was a release to the returning vets gave way to subtlety and technique once again. Every once in a while though, you'll run across someone who's got a Little Bully hiding in their tackle-box and LOOK OUT!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Psychotropic Psightseeing!!!

The legend of the Psychotropic Trout is a unique one, this fish is a purely American creation formed from the wild and turbulent days of those Wild 1960s. A bi-product of the excesses and delirium that reigned back in the day that lives on as a reminder to remember that moderation is the key to slogging through this crazy world.

Back in the late 60s, somewhere out in the backwoods near Laramie and Cheyenne Wyoming there was a commune of semi-vegetarian, tie-dyed pot-smoking hippies that survived by selling shellacked pinecones from roadside stands and by playing free concerts with members of the commune appearing as The Raspberry Porkchop. The Porkchop played long, meandering trippy numbers and their light guy, Snorky FunkFuzz was famous for his psychedelic lightshows. Needless to say, folks were tripping their little furry heads off during these things and skinny dipping in the cold mountain ponds was a a way of “taking the edge off” some of the strong stuff they were ingesting. 

Legend has it that during one such concert a guy from California who called himself Professor Propylene showed up with some acid he called Cosmic Microbus that blew everyone to kingdom come. Himself included. Apparently the Professor kept his stash in a little satchel he tied around his neck and, forgetting to take it off with the rest of his party rags, jumped into the pond with a whole satchel-full of ‘cid. The band played on, the folks freaked all night and by noon the next day everyone had wandered off into parts unknown and the concert was nothing but a dream. Excepting the trout that lived in that pond. Those fish were never the same and their progeny still swim in the high-mountain lakes and streams of this area. A place I’ve always wanted to visit.  The fish are the most gorgeous colors of tie-dye and I wanted to see one up close…but I’ve been told: beware! Don’t eat ‘em!!

I found my guide, Bison Bill and his son Goat in a cabin near Vidauwoo. Bill has been living up that way for eons and he remembers the days of the Raspberry Porkchop well…maybe too well. He knew exactly where to go, so I flew out to Cheyenne, rented a truck and headed out to meet this hairy behemoth of the bacchanal. By nightfall, we’d found our site, set up camp and made a short hike to a nearby lake. There they were, swimming in the moonlight, glowing…making lazy circles in the crystal clear water. Giggling, Bill reached in and grabbed one as easy as picking up an apple. It was really something else.

We had some fun catching a few with Goat and I was fascinated. I probably should have paid more attention but the scientist in me swept me back to the tent with a specimen to measure, dissect and perform some tests on. I was careful not to touch my hands to my mouth as I was doing this as the fish is said to carry a strong  hallucinogenic and I didn’t want to screw my notes up. I should have been paying attention to my friends outside. Before I knew it, things were starting to sound pretty weird. The two of them were giggling like maniacs around the fire and the smell of frying fish filled the air. I put my things down and grabbed a flask to go see what was going on. The fish weren’t the only things that were frying.

Things got pretty strange from there on out. I sat and listened to the two of them jabbering about the sun, moon and stars, tiny universes that lived in our fingernails and other space-cadet stuff, had a couple drinks and ate a can of beanie-weenies. I figured I’d better turn in when they started dancing around the fire and making animal-like snorts while hiking their pants up real high and holding their fingers above their heads like little horns. It was getting embarrassing.

I awoke to a gorgeous, quiet morning. Snores emanated from their tents and I grabbed my tackle and headed for the lake to see if I could snag me a cutthroat or a brown using a Tufted Jake. I had a good hour of fishing and was headed back to fry me up a breakfast when Goat stumbled out of his tent. Uhhh….

The ride back home was sort of uncomfortable. We didn’t talk much and when I hopped into my truck and headed back to Cheyenne with my notes, I was left with nothing more than a grunt or two from my weary space-travelers. Farewell you freakies….Long may you  live! Crazy sumbitches!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yin Meets Yang

We'd spent a few days enjoying the scenery around the Shang-bah Monastery, hangin' with the monks when we started to get a feeling they were trying to tell us something. Our guide had left us for a few days to visit some relatives in Poo-Tahn (apparently there was some sort of oyster-fest going on there) and none of us could speak Chinese so, we were doing a lot of head-scratching and trying to figure out what the hell was so important. It obviously had to do with the catfish and the guys kept drawing a yin-yang symbol in the sand along with two fish. Then, they'd draw a line between the two fish and their eyes would get big and they'd jabber on about something very excitedly. I was wishing the guide would get back so we could figure out what was up and talk about it over a drink (I'd told him to grab some beer when he was back in town).

Well, finally he shows up, looking a little worse for the wear and smelling of some rather strange perfume. I quickly retrieved the beer from him and slammed a couple. I didn't care how warm they were, all this monk-jabbering was getting on my nerves! We got the guy unpacked and settled in and told him to have a listen to the yin-yang story. This is where things got interesting: Legend says (according to the monks) that things have been haywire in the world since the companion catfish to this one at the monastery had croaked....and that they'd been searching the hills of China for years, looking for another Red Whiskered Ridgeback to "Marry" this one here. If they did that all would be well in the world, peace would reign, guns would be tossed away, yadda-yadda. Well, they figured that I might just be the guy who knew of another such fish and... you know what? They were right. These monks don't monkey around. So, I grabbed our map and found Xishuangbanna, the place where my grandfather passed away into the great adventure in the sky and the home of the only (until now) known Red Whiskered Ridgeback. It was a hike for sure but not impossible, so we grabbed our gear and headed out. The head-monk and his successor plus a couple others accompanied us and carried the Holy Golden Bucket to transport the fish back home.

The jungles were mostly bamboo and the hills were steep but the old guy led the way like he was walking to the corner for a pack of smokes. Our guide would respectfully "suggest" a right or left turn now and then because the old guy was using "The Force" or something to guide him and his bearings were a little skewed. The country was gorgeous, vistas opened up now and then, raging rivers ran below deep cliffs and placid waterfalls fed glistening lakes. The monks stopped at one very holy waterfall (the name escapes me... Moo-Shoo?) and I couldn't help myself. In went my line! I was using a Hedrick's Hellza-Popper and you can't go wrong with that. If anything so much as drifts past that lure, it's curtains for him. Those hooks are inescapable and before I knew it, I'd snagged a Salmo Trutta: an Asian variety of the Brown Trout. One of the younger monks was very interested in my gear and I showed him a trick or two.

After three days, the terrain began to change dramatically. It looked almost as if the place had been landscaped, it was gorgeous..magical. Eventually we heard the sound of a waterfall and things started looking eerily familiar. Yes, this was the place where I'd said goodbye to the Old Man. This was the mystical home of Kyong Foi, the Red-Whiskered Ridgeback Catfish. We searched the small pond, the monks chanting prayers and clanging tiny cymbals. The head-monk and his successor prayed into the Holy Golden Bucket by the side of the pond and, as tears fell from the old man's eyes into the bucket, there in the pond next to them appeared Kyong Foi, as if to say "Take me. I'm ready to go."

The fish glowed brightly as the old monk slipped his hand into the water and gently cradled the thing. The younger monk slipped the Holy Golden Bucket into the pond and the fish glided in, simple as that.

All was to be well in the world. I laid some flowers at the spot where the Mighty Gill McFinn left this world, said a few words to the man who changed my life forever and we slipped back into the forest, heading home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

HOLY Catfish!!!

Last week we received the some big news. Someone had reported spotting a Red-Whiskered Ridgeback Catfish in a far-off location deep within China! Now, if you're familiar with the story of this fish, there's only supposed to be ONE in existence. As a matter of fact, my Grandfather, the great Gill McFinn (the first) passed away beside the pond that was home to this most holy of fish. Needless to say, we were excited! Being excited and getting your butt from wherever you are to the depths of China is one thing. We net off anyway.

During customs we were met by a surly Agent who had no love for Westerners and things were looking grim. Officer Wahh was a mean son-of-a-gun and it looked like this might be the end until Veronica opened her jacket and smiled at the stern fellow, blinking those eyes of hers. It takes a heart of steel to resist Veronica when she puts the spell on you. So, in nothing flat, we're back on the trail!

Our guide took us the the great mountains of Lower Foobang Province and deep into the hill country in search of the Shang-bah Monastery. Reports had said that the monks there had the fish within their walls and had been worshipping it since the early 1800's unbeknownst to anyone. They were feeding it blessed rice and pouring wine into it's pond for years and years, keeping the thing happy. These fish are otherworldly..almost alien, spirit-like. We spotted the monastery high upon a hill and my heart leapt!

Climbing these hills was rugged. We typically sent Runt scrambling ahead like some crazed hairless ape and had him lift us by rope to each ledge. He never tires, that little booger! In a day and a half we were knocking at the gates of the place, exhausted but excited. I had to rap Runt on the noggin a few times to get it into his head to behave among the holy men inside. We put Veronica in a cloaked hood so we didn't cause any "trouble" ..these guys haven't seen a dame in a loooong time! They greeted us warmly and let us in, guiding us to the magical pond. if the reports weren't correct. There the thing was, gliding through the water with an unearthly glow surrounding it. A sense of peace came over all of us.

It was magical. As we were snapping photos, one of the monks relayed a story to us about there being TWO fish originally but a misguided monk had lost control and caught and eaten the other fish long ago. Legend has it that he said it tasted something like chicken as he chewed on the fish and then he slowly began to glow brighter and brighter until he vanished in a flash of light. Nobody messes with that stuff anymore. These guys are serious about their catfish!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making Mom Happy

Well Dave "Poopypants" Hansen managed to tick Mom off pretty well this weekend. I guess she'd stashed some cans of smoked oysters and a couple cigars back in the galley and he got into them. He smoked one of her cigars and fed the oysters to his cat. Nobody'll touch those nasty, canned boogers but Mom herself. I guess Dave figured the cat would go for them. God knows there's enough seafood on this crate to make a cat so fat it'd make a good sideshow attraction but that's Dave... always thinking. When Mom found out her stogie and oysters were missing, she raised holy hell and dragged us all on deck where she started into drilling us pretty good. She learned some nasty trick from the Japanese back in WWII where you pull up your pants legs and kneel on uncooked rice until you start to talk. It's very uncomfortable to say the least after an hour or two and thank god Dave finally cracked.

We were anchored off of the island volcano Pangatutu and had been enjoying the sun and sea until this all hit the fan. After the interrogation, I went back to trying to hook me a Patagonian Hornfish with my old Little Devil and was having no luck (funny...I never do with that damned lure) and the rest of the crew were licking their wounds as Mom chewed Dave two new bung-holes and made him swear up and down that he'd make up for the snagged stogie somehow (we were trying hard to avert our eyes, it hurts to see a grown man cry like that). I was wondering what he'd come up with. I knew it wasn't going to be good.

In a half an hour I heard a splash and saw that Dave and one of his brothers were in the drink, snorkeling around for something.

The water here is gorgeous and crystal clear, not too deep and full of all sorts of who-knows-what. Great place to dive and snorkel. You never know what lurks below: treasure or terror...or both! Apparently Dave found the "both" option as he noticed a gleam from down below. Taking a deep breath, down he went and sure enough, there was the biggest damned pearl he'd ever seen, resting on the fat tongue of a giant clam, opened up and blowing sand. Down Dave dived and damned if he didn't almost die. As soon as he'd grabbed that thing, the clam snapped shut, tighter than tupperware! Dave's brother, thinking quickly (as all Hansen's do) stayed above and snapped photos.

Let me tell you, sometimes a curse can be a blessing. Old "Poopypants" must have tasted like, well...crap. That clam spit him out faster than a vegetarian eating a hot dog ! Good thing he had a death-grip on that pearl. She's a beauty.... and I guess "Poopypants" is off the sh*t list for now!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Landing the first Snogfish

The legend of the Snogfish goes like this: "Many Lake Erie fishermen have found themselves being fished out of the water after their first encounter with the Snogfish. Even those who’ve had a fair warning are unprepared for the ear-piercing scream they are met with when that red head pops out of the water as the Snogfish fights for its life. The experience is truly an unforgettable one. Locals are fond of taking unsuspecting guests fishing in the hopes that the poor sap pulls a “Snogger” and finds himself head over heels in the drink. A lesser-known behavior of the Snogfish is its habit of moaning below the ice during winter nights. On the cold, frozen shores of Lake Erie one can hear a plaintive wail emanating from the depths across the inky-black, frozen lake. The effect is…eerie."

An interesting tale for sure but what it doesn't tell you is the hard work that went into the first discovery of the fish. It was the coldest winter in record when my grandfather and his crew set out across the frozen lake. His old fishing pal "Pirate Pete" was along for the trip along with Mike "The Hammer" Harmon with his tools and building equipment. The plan was to set out and drill a hole in the ice, set a microphone into the water and try to determine the location of the moaning denizens of the deep. What they didn't know was that the Golden Eagles of Erie were nesting in that area and were on the lookout for intruders. Poor Pete found that out at a whiz-stop about a half an hour into the trip (apparently this was sort of an issue with Pete in his advanced age..there were many, many "whiz-stops" whatever the trip) and he was brutally attacked when zipping up his "barn door "  before his "horsey" got back in. I don't know what hurt more, the eagles talons of that zipper lock  on Pete's pecker .

But, it was too late to stop now, Pete beat that thing off and they put the jalopy in high gear and got out of there. By that afternoon they were out of the eagle's territory and intently listening to the deep waters and the Snoggers below. By early evening Mike had the hut up over the hole in the ice, the wood stove was stocked and they were sending their lines down  and having a couple of cold beers.

The problem was, old Pete couldn't take the heat. The warmth of the cabin was causing a swelling in his wounded  wiener and before long he was wailing as loud as the  damned Snogfish.  The poor guy eventually opted for a seat in the cold,  dangled his dingus in bucket of cold water. drilled himself a hole  in the ice and settled down to try his hand at the line. He had a bottle of brandy to warm him and Gill and Mike made regular trips out to check on the poor old guy with a hot cup of coffee.  Pete was miserable and it was the longest night he'd had in a long time and that's saying a lot considering he hadn't had a good nights sleep in the past 50 years.  He was just too damned ugly to sleep.

Well, isn't that just how luck works? One day, you could be the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet and the next day, you're the golden boy. At about   8 the next morning Gill and Mike were blown out of their galoshes with a racket that shook the shed. Outside, Pete had landed a snogfish and it was screaming like a damned freight train..and so was Pete! I don't know who was louder but I know one thing, I'll bet Pete forgot all about his poor peter when he pulled that snogger out of the snow!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Off the Grid and Back Again

Sorry for the break in communications folks. Things got a little hairy last week as we flew to Lower Nouhidhannaka after hearing reports of a possible Fathom Lurker appearing in someone's net. False alarm unfortunately. Another "unfortunate" occurrence was the disappearance of one of the Hansen brothers from a local watering hole. We figured it might be some local pirates looking for a quick score with some ransom money but (after a week of searching, asking locals etc) we found the troublemaker shacked up with some 300 lb broad in a back-alley tenement. Apparently many of the locals had heard some strange noises during the evenings and we were able to triangulate the reports to locate the correct apartment. It wasn't a pretty sight and we've got the kid in some regular therapy sessions back on the mainland in Florida. We haven't had the heart to tell him that "he" was a "she" yet and may just keep that under our hats forever.

On the sunnier side of things, we learned of yet another "talent" that our little Runt had been hiding from us. In all my years on all the seas I've never seen anything quite like it. So, when he was just a sprout, I guess his old man took him to the Gulf a few times where our little runt would entertain himself by taking pokes at the local sea life while diving off his dad's fishing boat. By "pokes" I mean to say he'd punch the little fishies in the nose. I guess things escalated as he looked for tougher foes and in some time Runt's little sport of "Shark Boxing" was born.

Needless to say, I didn't believe a word of it. Shark Boxing? Ridiculous. Well, shiver me timbers if I ain't a fool. We set off the next day into the Atlantic near Key West and our rascal Runt showed us a thing our two. He'd shovel some chum in some fairly shallow waters, strap on a pair of gloves and in he'd go.

In nothing flat, he was batting the beasts left and right. I've always heard that a shark hates a right to the schnozola but I had no idea what a bunch of girly-sharks they were when faced with the pugilistic prowess of our tiny titan.

Before we knew it, the two remaining Hansen brothers wanted to get in on the action and Runt was showing them some moves. Good sense prevailed (on my part) though and I told the boys they could take some shots but it'd have to be from the deck. I'd already lost one of these characters to foolishness in the past week and couldn't afford to lose another. Who'd take the trash out? 

Here's a nice shot of Dave landing one right on the kisser of a real beauty! 

Safe travels!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Revisiting the Psychofish

I was going through some old things yesterday and came upon this old photo of my grandfather's art table. It was fun to see the old familiar table that he kept in the corner of his cabin once again, it's like an old friend.I thought the fact that it showed his original Psychofish painting in progress was doubly cool. We offer that fish on one of our beautiful t-shirts (in case you hadn't heard). You can get it HERE.

With as much traveling I do and with all the stuff that occurs in the field, I often forget the legacy of my Grandfather and the things he went through. Reading the story of the Psychofish brought back some memories, let me tell you. 
Here it is: 
"Well known to the fishermen of Mexiana Island on the East Coast of Brazil, the Psychofish has been creating havoc for centuries. These men who toil in the early darkness are likely to find their nets chewed to pieces or their bait bitten in half by this marauder of the sea. Known for random acts of violence and penchant for bloodlust, there have been accounts of whole schools of Psychofish devouring themselves at the slightest whim. Professor McGill kept a specimen in his personal collection for many years but eventually found the bills for counseling the fish too costly and eventually had it released it back into the wild."

Now, after reading this, I had vivid memories of my Grandfather's tank (it was enormous!) and, although I was very young, I think I remember the whole Psychofish episode. I can recall a "doctor-type" coming over once a week and sitting in a big chair at the corner of the tank with a pad of paper. The Psychofish would linger in that dark corner of the tank and, as he took notes, the "doctor" would speak softly to the fish. It was all very strange and I know it upset my Grandfather as he would roll his eyes and pace out of the room. As soon as the guy would leave, it wouldn't be long until the Psychofish was racing around like a maniac, snapping at the other fish. My Grandfather would lament the "wasted dough" he'd spent on a "Fish Quack" and get very upset. It wasn't long until the Psychofish was gone forever and peace was restored to the tank.

I've still got the original painting although it's in need of some serious restoration.

And...of course, you can get your hand on a gorgeous, screenprinted (in the USA!) shirt at our shop and...I almost forgot: Each shirt comes with the story of the fish (or lure) on it's accompanying hang-tag! Check 'em out!

Friday, March 15, 2013


The minute you step into the bush expecting nothing is the minute you end up with a whole lot of something. Never fails. 

A couple days ago, we set out into the woodlands of lower Iowa in search of the Big-Assed Buck, a legend among whitetail deer hunters in these parts. Petrus, Veronica and I were the original party but Attaway was getting stir-crazy and wanted to stretch his legs so we let him tag along. He's not much on the dry-land but he's earned his say and I throw him a bone now and then. Veronica was loaded with tranquilizer darts, I was packing most of the gear and Petrus had his camera gizmos up the wazoo, so we figured we were ready for anything. The heaviest thing I was lugging was Attaway's bottle of vodka. We were set up for a three day journey and were hopeful to get our eyes on the Buck. The weather was good and the terrain was pretty fair so we were making good headway. 

Around the time we stopped for lunch, we all started getting this creepy feeling that we were being watched. We'd see some movement here and there out of the corner's of our eyes, something low, moving fast, but couldn't ever get a good look. It was pretty sporadic anyway so we shrugged it off but I was keeping my eyes peeled as we made our way deeper into the wood. The Big-Assed Buck is supposed to be an impressive creature with a nice rack and a very distinctive back-end. I was looking for something big and white, sort of like a fat fratboy mooning you from a passing car full of drunken, privileged college brats. That's what I've heard anyway. There is also supposed to be a distinctive odor associated with this species so I was s whiffing the wind as well. Still, every so often, I'd catch movement off to our left and right. 

We had just topped a rise and were working our way down into a pretty valley when we came upon them. Giant Iowan Woodchucks. A whole village of them. We froze and they froze, a whole platoon of the three-foot-high critters moved in from our left and right. They'd been following us all along! I heard the bolt of Victoria's rifle being pulled back and the click of Petrus' camera when all hell broke loose. They charged us like a herd of buck-toothed fuzzy rhinos, their little jaws snapping open and shut, their lisped screams echoing through the woods.

Now, you're saying "Woodchucks?" and I'm answering you..."YES. Woodchucks." These babies aren't your run of the mill, Punxsutawney Phil, scared of their own shadow groundhoggers. No, these are the big-boys of the wood-piggy family and they are VERY territorial. We'd stepped into their woods and they were not happy about it. They had chucklings to care for and as far as they were concerned we were meat. High-stepping it with all we had, we ran through the brush in desperate search of a stream. The funny thing about these hell-rodents is that they'll do anything to avoid getting their feet wet and, if we could find a creek or something to cross, we might just save our hides. I was desperate and was grabbing my precious Little Bully's from my tackle and hurling them at the beasts, hoping to drive them back. Rounding a bend around a rock outcropping I saw it about thirty yards ahead! A small creek! Jumping with all of our might we cleared the thing and fell to our knees in exhaustion. We were safe!

That's when we heard Attaway scream. The old booze-hound had fallen behind and they had him! I frantically searched through my pack for a flash-bang grenade, figuring if I could lob one into the pack, we could get in there and get to Attaway. I found one! I pulled the pin and hucked that thing into the hog-swarm and it went off like a cannon. Petrus and I jumped the creek and ran into the smoke desperately looking for Attaway.

As the smoke cleared, there in the clearing lay his crumpled mass and he wasn't alone. The great silverback, king of the woodchucks, was standing over him. Defiant. As if to say,"These are the woods of the Great Woodchuck! Who are you to defile them??". Perus and I stopped dead. He snapped this last photo before the great beast shrugged it's shoulders and lumbered off back to its people.

Attaway was pretty scratched up but nothing a whole lot of vodka couldn't fix. We limped back into the woods, on the other side of the creek. We'll avoid that side for now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Braised Thugfish Ala Cookie

Petrus made a trip to the gulf the other day with Dafari and damned if that Golden Q-Tip didn't score big! As the evening approached he landed something big... a real fighter. Dafari said it "was as if a hundred camels had grabbed hold of his line and pulled toward the great canyon of Alfafa!". I guess that means "real hard-like". Anyway, Petrus held tight and worked that pole for a good three hours before the thing on the end showed it's ugly mug. A Thugfish! That's some real East-Texas Red Good Eatin' when it gets into Cookie's hands. The boys quickly threw the thing on ice once they'd capped it twice in the noggin with a .45 It's not easy to take one of these boys out. They didn't get the name Thugfish for nothing. 

Here's Cookie's Recipe: 

Braised Thugfish

Take one good-sized Thugfish and scale it. (Whack it on its head with a hammer before you try this, you don't want the thing waking up). You'll need to use a machete for this as the scales are rather tough, once you get to hacking at it from the right angle, things should go pretty smoothly for you. 

Now, using a chainsaw, cut the tail off 3 inches up from it's flare. Hit the thing over the head with a hammer once again (just to make sure) . Now stab it through its ugly heart with a heavy dagger. 

Lay the beast on it's back and, using a skillsaw, split its belly from stem to stern (wear goggles, the blood will leave burns on your bare skin) and reach into its body and scoop its stinking innards to the floor. Please make sure there are no dogs or cats around if you're fond of them (Poor little Petey...he was a good dog). Open a window. 

Now, chisel out the cheekmeat using a cold-hardened steel implement and set these aside. Grabbing a huge cleaver, come at the thing from a run from one end of the galley and lay into its head, just behind the gills with all you've got. If you sever the thing in one shot, you're lucky. Go have a smoke. 

Have a stiff drink before this next step. Stand the carcass up on its split belly and climb up on the table with it. Now, straddling the thing like a small horse (or whatever you're into), force your hands down on its spine like your some sort of psychopathic chiropractor, breaking its back and flattening the thing out. You should hear a loud snap and some gas escaping from it's blow valve under the tail. Hold your nose.. 

Now...get some good Manatee fat, the real rich kind, and put about a half cup in a heavy pan large enough for this monster and heat it until it's smoking. Lay your thugfish down and listen to it crackle. Turn it when its browned and brown the other side. Place the reserved cheeks on top. While it's browning, have another drink and find your East Indian Octopus Ink in the back of the fridge. You'll need a quarter cup of that along with some port wine and some finely sliced sea cucumbers, a clove of garlic, minced and some salt and pepper to taste. 

Pour this mixture over the Thugfish and cover. Simmer for 15 hours and serve with mashed Tongu Roots and red wine (lots of it).